Sunday 19 November 2017

Travellers with uncharged phones banned from US flights

Armed police officers at Heathrow Airport, where confusion reigned yesterday as passengers were warned that they could be refused passage on US-bound flights if devices were uncharged. Photo: Tim Ockenden/PA Wire
Armed police officers at Heathrow Airport, where confusion reigned yesterday as passengers were warned that they could be refused passage on US-bound flights if devices were uncharged. Photo: Tim Ockenden/PA Wire

Tom Whitehead

Holidaymakers and travellers who turn up at airport security with flat mobile phones or electrical items will be stopped from boarding US-bound planes and effectively treated like "terrorists".

The warning came from British Airways yesterday, which said passengers heading for the US who fail to turn on devices when asked will be immediately banned from that flight and will have to be rescheduled – even if they are happy to abandon their item or send it separately.

The airline said that even a new device bought in the airport lounge after passing through security will have to be charged up or the passenger will not be allowed to board at the gate.

Reacting to the news in Dublin last night a DAA spokesperson told the Irish Independent : "At the moment the understanding is that there is no change. We have our own security that everybody goes through at the outset and it's business as usual there.

"The Department of Transport are the body for the level of compliance in relation to aviation security in Ireland.

"If there is any change for passengers we will certainly let them know. But at the moment nothing has changed.

According to BA however, any transfer passenger whose device has gone flat on the first leg will also be stopped from their onward travel unless they can charge it up first.

It is the toughest stance so far since America ordered extra security checks on direct flights amid fears al-Qa'ida has developed a new bomb that can evade current controls. It was announced on the ninth anniversary of the 7/7 terror bombings in London.

BA said the move was based on advice from the US authorities.

However, the British government only advised that the flat device would not be allowed on the plane and made no mention of passengers themselves being refused.

It raises the prospect that passengers who are told they cannot fly because their device is flat could have their details passed to US security officials.

The move caused confusion at airports.

At Heathrow, airport staff were even advising travellers that if they turned up at security with flat batteries they could go back to the departure lounge to charge them up or mail the device on to their destination separately.

One aviation expert last night said the new regulations were worse than the liquids and gels restrictions imposed after a major terror plot in 2006 and that it would create a "debacle" at airports.

Philip Baum, from Green Light Aviation Security consultancy firm, said: "The terrorists must be sitting there laughing their heads off.

"We are going to be in a situation where people are having their bags taken off planes because their phone battery has gone dead."

Airport security around direct flights to the US was stepped up last week amid fears master bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, from al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has developed a new type of explosive.

Intelligence agencies are concerned that the terror group may be looking to use British and other Western jihadists in Syria and Iraq and suicide bombers.

American officials are particularly concerned smartphones may be the source of the new bomb threat and have already ordered that passengers be required to show they can be turned on.

The US Transportation Security Administration said devices that won't power up won't be allowed on planes and those travellers may have to undergo additional screening.

The UK government and some airports, including Heathrow and Manchester, yesterday formally updated their official advice, asking travellers to make sure devices were charged before they arrived at check-in.

But on its website, BA said: "If your device doesn't power up when you are requested to do so, you will not be allowed to fly to the US on your original service. "Our customer services team will look after the re-booking of your travel arrangements." It warned not to bring any broken devices in hand luggage.

It even warned travellers who pass through security and then buy electrical items in the airport shops: "The item and its packaging may also be examined by security teams at the boarding gate.

A BA spokesman said: "British Airways is complying with the new security requirements from the US government. Virgin Atlantic would not discuss what restrictions it would put in place. Delta Air Lines and . (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News